As expected, NASA in its over-hyped news conference revealed that its Spitzer Space Telescope found seven Earth-size planets around a single star, 3 of them located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have flowing water. Since they are located outside of our solar system, they are called exoplanets.
NASA claims the discovery is record with greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system and that all planets could have liquid water, while three of them surely have the habitable zone.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA. All these seven Earth-sized planets have been found around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1.
Found at about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, these planets are relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. The entire exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1 (Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope) located in Chile.
This is not the first time NASA announced its findings of exoplanets as in May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, making it seven.
The new results were published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. Pending further observations, "The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey in Belgium.
The atmosphere and water resources on these exoplanets are still hazy and more studies are required before coming to any conclusion about their habitability, leave alone existence of life form on them.
The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist’s concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on Feb. 23, 2017.
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